Spanish Vaqueros of the 18th century first brought the cattle and horses to North America and while the Spanish ruled the Southwest, they influenced the Natives of the region and soon they became just as good a Vaqueros than the Spanish Blue Bloods.
With Manifest Destiny the main policy of the United States Government, Americans from the East came in contact with the growing tradition and soon they began copying their styles to manage their own ranches in the same manner.
The first rodeo event in San Antonio was in 1854 and it was called the Texas Agricultural Fair and it set the precedent for what would become a world class event. The crowds grew over the years and it became evident that the event would need a bigger venue in order for it to grow and appease all the participants, visitors and show persons.
Cattle drives to the North and East would culminate in friendly competitions between different outfits at the end of these long drives. It is here that the American Rodeo hails from.
By the time the mid 20th century came around, room for the show was scarce and that is where brothers Joe and Harry Freeman stepped in.
Harold “Harry” Freeman was a philanthropist born in 1889. He and his brother Joe were entrepreneurs who made their millions on all things Texas; oil, cotton, ranching and numerous Chevrolet dealerships. They purchased their first parcel of land in 1941 and continued adding to it until it became the Freeman Ranch known still today.
They then purchased the plot of land that would become the Joe and Harry Freeman Coliseum. Ground broke on the construction in Jan of 1948 and the 1st Annual Stock Show and Rodeo was February 7, 1950. During the first rodeo over a quarter of a million people were entertained by all of the events, which was unprecedented for an opening event like that.
Mr. Harry (as he was affectionately known ) also donated 3,484 acres of land to South West Texas State University (now Texas State University) to be held in perpetual trust as the Harold M. Freeman Educational Foundation.
For the next 52 years, Freeman Coliseum was the home base of the rodeo, but in 2003 everything was moved into the new SBC Center. Some time after that, A T&T bought out SBC Communications and the venue became knows as the A T&T Center. The move gave each show 6,000 more seats to work with and an incredible upgrade in all the amenities that the new facility featured.
The Freeman didn’t become just another part of the scenery at the rodeo; rather, it became the home to all the commercial vendors and provided a much needed marketplace that was also protected from the elements.
For a number of years now, the rodeo has had over a million visitors each season. The 2008 final tally was 1,095,939. One of the virtues of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is the quality of production put on year after year. It has consistently been voted the best Large Indoor Rodeo in the nation by the PRCA (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) and in 2003 it was voted to the PRCA Pro Rodeo Hall Of Fame.
In 1984, the SALE Executive Community started providing scholarships for prizes in the livestock shows in order to encourage local 4-H and FFA students to continue an interest in the agricultural industry, by handing out agricultural and related degree scholarships.
The 2009 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo marked the 60th Anniversary of the event and ran from February 5th thru February 22nd. The final attendance tally for the 2009 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo was 1,313,785 and S.A.L.E. (San Antonio Livestock Exposition) reached the $96 million mark in scholarships, and had over 5,000 volunteers helping the show come off smoothly.